Stronghold 2 (-)

Stronghold 2 is a disappointing sequel to an amazing castle building game. I was excited to finally get a chance to try it out, but don’t bother.

The graphics are okay, but they’re nothing especially different from what you can find elsewhere. There are thousands of bugs, which you can try to avoid by picking up quite a few patches. The graphics would be a lot better though if the audio quality were better. The music, though maybe it’s appropriate maybe, It just doesn’t really do justice to the game. I shut it off and played my own music instead. The music does the game justice when you play the game, and the music immerses you in the world that you ONLY experience when you’re listening to THAT music. That was WAY off here.

There are a few different gameplay types. Firstly, you can either choose the path of peace, or path of war. Peace is okay, especially the free build mode that is offered. With no interference, you can choose from a few maps to just build on by yourself, and well, free build. In the war mode, you can do a skirmish with up to 7 AI players (don’t, they are terrible.) or follow the campaign.

The campaign is just bad. The characters are bad, the levels are bad (the first level is basically a point-click movement tutorial to get your guys across the map, kill a few guys, and then get on a boat.), and it is not very fulfilling. In the skirmish type, Kingmaker, you play on a large map with different regions, much like Lords of the Realm II, but of course it’s in real time. Building up a castle is kind of fun, but it can be difficult to learn how to do it effectively so that the computers will not destroy you in moments, or so that they won’t continuously destroy your mines.

Economics are handled really well. The city-simulation features are really great. They include everything from the chain-of-industry type of work, where the wheat farmers take wheat to the mill, where the millers will take the flour to the baker, etc. There is a new torture feature that is surprisingly necessary in order to keep your villagers in line, from thieving to being caught by guards, to the court, and eventual public torture on a stretching rack, or a flogging post, for example. There is also a birds eye view feature which helps greatly in planning and building, especially walls. The graphics, which are mediocre 3D, but greatly improved since the original Stronghold, make it fun to sometimes just people-watch as your peasants go about their routine.

The combat really is the issue. The game’s learning curve is pretty quick, but militarily, unless you play ‘Seige Mode’ is pretty difficult to actually start from scratch. Also, the tutorial is very very limited, but learning on your own is kind of intuitive. Regardless, this game definitely receives a stern MINUS.